Wildeana 12


The Wilde Years (2000), a poster by Jonathan Barnbrook for an exhibition at the Barbican Centre, London.

Continuing an occasional series. Recent (and not-so-recent) Wildean links.

Sander Bink writes that Beardsley-esque artist Carel de Nerée tot Babberich was in Paris in the summer of 1900, the summer of the Exposition Universelle which has been a subject of many posts here. Did he meet Oscar Wilde? It’s a possibility.

• “Was Oscar Wilde’s outlandish personality more influential than his writing?” asks George Woodcock.

These were the years when Zola was at the height of his international fame but Wilde pans the fashionable Naturalist school by contrasting it with another phenomenon that was then sweeping through Europe: Russian fiction. One of the small gems of these volumes is a cluster of very interesting and little-known articles on modern Russian novels. Wilde rated Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky far above “the obscene brood of pseudo-realists which roosts in the Cloaca maxima of France” and welcomed their influence on modern literature. He was certainly among the first critics to review the English translations of Crime and Punishment and Injury and Insult, praising Dostoevsky’s command of detail and ability to probe into “the most hidden springs of life”.

Stefano Evangelista on Wilde’s world of journalism

• “An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.” A print by ObviousState.

Robert McCrum looks at The Picture of Dorian Gray for the Guardian‘s 100 Best Novels.

• Oscar Wilde provides the Pinterest legions with a thousand and one quotes.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

Nigel Kneale’s Nineteen Eighty-Four


If I’d been more diligent I would have posted this yesterday which happened to be the UK’s first George Orwell Day. The Quatermass Experiment and this adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four are the two outstanding dramas from the very early days of British television. Both were written by Nigel Kneale and directed by Rudolph Cartier, an expatriate Austrian who brought to the small screen skills honed at the UFA studios before the war. The Quatermass Experiment was the first major collaboration between the pair after which they adapted Wuthering Heights. Nineteen Eighty-Four followed, a production that was screened twice in November 1954, and which caused considerable controversy at the time on account of its oppressive atmosphere and the scenes of Winston Smith’s torture.


Kneale’s drama, which was performed live in the studio on both occasions, looks primitive compared to everything that’s followed but in many ways I prefer this adaptation to Michael Radford’s glossier feature film. For a start it has a great cast: Peter Cushing plays Winston Smith, Yvonne Mitchell is Julia, Donald Pleasence is Syme, and André Morell (who later played Professor Quatermass in the BBC’s Quatermass and the Pit) is O’Brien. Also among the cast there’s Wilfrid Brambell in two minor roles, one of them a precursor of the crusty old man he’d spend the rest of his life portraying. Neither Cushing nor Pleasence were known as film actors at this time; both would no doubt have been surprised to be told that their subsequent careers would involve a great deal of horror and science fiction.


Cartier and Kneale didn’t have the budget to compete with feature films but for once the claustrophobic nature of a studio production works in the favour of a drama where there’s little intimacy or privacy. With the exception of a few filmed inserts almost everything is close shots. As the story grows more desperate so the shadows close in, until the final scenes are all spotlit faces in darkened rooms. The power of Cushing’s performance still resonates today, and gives an idea of how shocking this must have been to a home audience expecting little more than light entertainment on a Sunday evening. The YouTube copy is the entire 107-minute film, and is worth a watch if only to see Donald Pleasence when he had an almost complete head of hair.

• From 2009: Robert McCrum on The masterpiece that killed George Orwell.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Stone Tape

Weekend links 75


Eternal Pain (1913) by Paul Dardé. (And also here)

Rain Taxi caused a stir this week with its savaging of Hamlet’s Father by science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. The book is another of Card’s blatherings about the hell of being homosexual dressed in garments stolen from the unfortunate William Shakespeare. Rain Taxi made the obvious point about many of Shakespeare’s sonnets being homoerotic. For my part I was more appalled by the quoted extract which reduced one of the greatest plays in the language to that lifeless, cardboard-character-speak which is endemic in bad genre writing. News of the travesty quickly spread to gay news blogs, The Outer Alliance and elsewhere, ensuring that what’s left of Card’s reputation continues to spiral down a Mel Gibson-shaped black hole.

• “Sounds only like itself, like no one before or after.” Julian Cope on Tago Mago by Can which will be reissued in a new edition in November. Nice to see the return of the original sleeve design, something I saw once in a record shop then didn’t see again for years. For a long time I thought I’d imagined it. Related: two German art exhibitions inspired by the group.

The Responsive Eye (1965), a catalogue for the MoMA exhibition that launched Op Art. Also at Ubuweb: La femme 100 têtes, a film by Eric Duvivier based on the collage work by Max Ernst.

• More apocalyptic art: William Feaver on John Martin whose exhibition will be opening at Tate Britain later this month. There’s a trailer here.

Borges and I, an essay by Nandini Ramachandran. Related: Buenos Aires: Las Calles de Borges, a short film by Ian Ruschel.

• “Who was JG Ballard? Don’t ask his first biographer,” says Robert McCrum.

Biologically-inspired fabric and material design by Neri Oxman.

• Cross-pollinating subgenres: “Steampunk ambient” at Disquiet.

In the Shadow of Saturn, a photo by the Cassini spacecraft.

• The art and fashion designs of Alia Penner.

Fleet of hybrid airships to conquer Arctic.

• RIP Jordan Belson, filmmaker.

• Ten years of Ladytron whose new album is released on the 12th of September: Playgirl (2001), Seventeen (2002), Destroy Everything You Touch (2005), Sugar (2005), Ghosts (2008), Ace Of Hz (2011).